Formula Drift goes full-throttle into the midseason of competition to finish off its 10th season and final competition for 2013 at the "House of Drift" at Irwindale, CA. The championship race has come down to the narrowest of margins with the Top 5 drivers all within striking distance to take home the championship. Follow along as we recap both Round 4 and 5. The teams prepare to battle in the next round at the Lone Star State as the drift season quickly unfolds to crown this year's Formula D champ.
Round 4: The Gauntlet
Formula D Championship returned to New Jersey's legendary Wall Speedway for Round 4, the halfway mark for the championship season in front of a sold-out crowd. The short course was reconfigured for this year's event, as it once again proves to be one of the more difficult courses for many Formula D drivers. The short oval's technical track configuration didn't disappoint. The weekend event was filled with dramatic crashes, controversial calls, and stellar upsets.
Among major upsets taking place throughout the day was the Top 32 eliminations of top team and driver Daijiro Yoshihara who qualified a dismal 30th in the America's Tire/Falken Tire Nissan S13 squaring off against Third Place qualifying Fredric Aasbo in the Hankook Tire Scion Racing tC. Aasbo made quick work of Yoshihara as the tC dwarfed the V-8-powered S13 of Yoshihara with greater angle, speed, and display of smoke, which served too much for the former 2011 FD champion to overcome.
In the consolation round, Chris Forsberg in the NOS Energy Drink/Hankook Nissan 370Z was against Darren McNamara in the Falken Tire Nissan 240SX. The action heated up when McNamara had a mistake that gave Forsberg the Third Place finish. The final battle pitted the number one qualifier Justin Pawlak in the Falken Ford Mustang against champion Daigo Saito. On Pawlak's chase run, he went a little too hard and spun out, giving the victory and increasing the Championship point lead to Saito.
The Final Four was whittled down to McNamara in the Falken Tire Nissan S14, Saito in the Achilles/Bridges Racing Lexus SC430, Pawlak in the Falken Tire Ford Mustang, and Forsberg in the NOS Energy Drink/Hankook Nissan 370Z. McNamara pitted against Saito in a tight battle, but it was the reining champion Saito who held the advantage to advance to the championship round. Up next was Forsberg versus Pawlak in the battle of the V-8s. A critical error by Forsberg gave Pawlak the green light to move on. In a battle to determine third place, former teammates McNamara and Forsberg stormed the track. The tandem drift was pulled off to perfection but it was the Falken Nissan S14 that bobbled though the tandem run, handing Forsberg the automatic win.
Coming off a Second Place finish in Round 3 at Palm Beach, FL, Saito in the Achilles/Bridges Racing Lexus SC430 drifted to a First Place victory over Pawlak in the Falken Tire Ford Mustang after a spin-out on the second run. The win increased Saito's championship point lead with his second victory of the season.
|Round 4 Final Results:|
|1. Daigo Saito||Achilles Tire/Bridges Racing Lexus SC430||Winner|
|2. Justin Pawlak||Falken Tire Ford Mustang||Second Place|
|3. Chris Forsberg||NOS Energy Drink/Hankook Nissan 370Z||Third Place|
|Points Standings After Four Rounds:|
|1. Daigo Saito||Achilles Tire/Bridges Racing Lexus SC430||361 Points|
|2. Vaughn Gittin Jr.||Monster Energy/Nitto Tire Ford Mustang RTR||300 Points|
|3. Michael Essa||GSR Autosport/Yokohama BMW M3||296.50 Points|
|4. Chris Forsberg||NOS Energy Drink/Hankook Nissan 370Z||286 Points|
|5. Justin Pawlak||Falken Tire Ford Mustang||282.50 Points|
|6. Fredric Aasbo||Hankook Tire Scion Racing tC||266.50 Points|
|7. Darren McNamara||Falken Tire Nissan S14||259.50 Points|
|8. Aurimas Bakchis||Nexen Tire Nissan S14||221.00 Points|
|9. Daijiro Yoshihara||Discount Tire/Falken Tire Nissan S13||219.25 Points|
|10. Kenneth Moen||Lutz Performance/Nexen Tire Nissan 240SX||210 Points|
Round 5: Throwdown
The fans came out in masses for Round 5. Stands were filled to capacity with spectators hoping to see their favorite driver take the podium later that night. The track offers a bittersweet feeling for many drivers. The complex banking, which enters the mid section before coming up quickly onto the final sharp radius corner, serves as a constant reminder that drifting is more than a game of luck. Crashes, off-line drifts, and bobbling out of podium contention were a common pattern witnessed for much of the day. Heading into the event, returning 2012 FD Champion Saito had a commanding 61-point lead over Second Place Gittin Jr., and statistically would have been able to lock up the championship in Round 6 with a strong showing, but with an early exit in the Top 32, the sizable gap was quickly brought down to a tight race.
In the consolation round, Aurimas "Odi" Bakchis in the Nexen Tire Nissan 240SX battled Aasbo in the Hankook Tire/Scion Racing tC. The battle was fierce, but wheel problems on the Nexen S14 gave Aasbo the win and the Third Place finish. The championship battle witnessed Michael Essa in the GSR Autosport/Yokohama BMW M3 against Forsberg. Essa and his hard-charging BMW have been turning heads recently, but it wasn't his day. Forsberg took the win and the lead in the 2013 Pro Championship points standings. Essa also moves into Second Place overall. More importantly, Forsberg's win moves him into the championship point's lead over Saito.
With only two events remaining, the championship is up for grabs. Less than 35 points separate the top five drivers from the title. Things are heating up with the showdown at Texas Motor Speedway in Dallas-Fort Worth up next.
|Round 5 Final Results:|
|1. Chris Forsberg||NOS Energy Drink/Hankook Nissan 370Z||First Place|
|2. Michael Essa||GSR Autosport/Yokohama BMW M3||Second Place|
|3. Fredric Aasbo||Hankook Tire Scion Racing tC||Third Place|
|Points Standings After Five Rounds:|
|1. Chris Forsberg||NOS Energy Drink/Hankook Nissan 370Z||388 Points|
|2. Michael Essa||GSR Autosport/Yokohama BMW M3||386.50 Points|
|3. Daigo Saito||Achilles Tire/Bridges Racing Lexus SC430||385.25 Points|
|4. Vaughn Gittin Jr.||Monster Energy/Nitto Tire Ford Mustang RTR||367 Points|
|5. Fredric Aasbo||Hankook Tire Scion Racing tC||354.50 Points|
|6. Justin Pawlak||Falken Tire Ford Mustang||345.50 Points|
|7. Darren McNamara||Falken Tire Nissan S14||332.50 Points|
|8. Aurimas Bakchis||Nexen Tire Nissan S14||294 Points|
|9. Matt Field||CX Racing/Blacktrax Nissan 240SX||261 Points|
|10. Robbie Nishida||Bridges Racing/Achilles Tire Lexus SC300||253 Points|